Exploring genomic variation associated with drought stress in Picea mariana populations

Joseph D. Napier, Guillaume de Lafontaine, Feng Sheng Hu

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3 Scopus citations


Predicted increases in drought and heat stress will likely induce shifts in species bioclimatic envelopes. Genetic variants adapted to water limitation may prove pivotal for species response under scenarios of increasing drought. In this study, we aimed to explore this hypothesis by investigating genetic variation in 16 populations of black spruce (Picea mariana) in relation to climate variables in Alaska. A total of 520 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were genotyped for 158 trees sampled from areas of contrasting climate regimes. We used multivariate and univariate genotype-by-environment approaches along with available gene annotations to investigate the relationship between climate and genetic variation among sampled populations. Nine SNPs were identified as having a significant association with climate, of which five were related to drought stress response. Outlier SNPs with respect to the overall environment were significantly overrepresented for several biological functions relevant for coping with variable hydric regimes, including osmotic stress response. This genomic imprint is consistent with local adaptation of black spruce to drought stress. These results suggest that natural selection acting on standing variation prompts local adaptation in forest stands facing water limitation. Improved understanding of possible adaptive responses could inform our projections about future forest dynamics and help prioritize populations that harbor valuable genetic diversity for conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9271-9282
Number of pages12
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020


  • Alaska
  • Picea mariana
  • drought
  • genotype–environment associations
  • local adaptation


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